Catlateral

Console: PC
Available: May 27th 2015

Pros

*  Live out your dream of being a Cat and breaking all your owner’s possessions

*  Houses are procedurally-generated so no two levels are exactly the same

*  I now understand the frustration of chasing a laser pointer

Cons

*  While the layout to each house is different, I felt like I was just knocking the same things off shelves over and over

*  Plenty of unlockables, but there just isn’t much pay off at the end of levels.

The concept for this game is about as simple as you get, but still manages to bring an interesting concept to the table.  What if you were a cat?  What if you were a mischievous cat that has been left alone in your owners house?  This game sets out to explore that concept.  In August 2013 Chris Chung created the original version of Catlateral Damage for the 7DFPS Game Jam.  For those who don’t know, A game jam is a gathering of game developers creating one or more games with in a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 72 hours.  This concept was so successful a full project quickly began development.  With the help of media coverage and excitement of the game a Kickstarter campaign was funded in only 10 days.

Being a cat lover, Chris based the concept on his childhood pet Nippy.

CatLickAndNippy

“Nippy, was the primary inspiration for the game since he was the epitome of what a cat is: aloof, condescending, and demanding while also lovable, cuddly, and friendly.”    

Presentation: B

The stage is set and we have our main protagonist.  For an indie game and especially a single developer, I was quite impressed by the look of the game.  Sure the polygon count is on the low side and the textures are as basic as they can be, but somehow this game pulls it off.  The cell shaded look seems to only strengthen the playful atmosphere of this game.  You have the ability to unlock and play as multiple cats which is honestly pretty rewarding.  The only downside is that the full body model for these cats are typically only viewed at the beginning and end of each level, with the paws being present during actual gameplay.

Gameplay1

The music tracks also help out the playful presentation with serviceable tunes on occasion.  The rest of the audio could use a little bit more attention.  While the meows are dead on, (so much that my dog’s ears perk up upon execution) the sound effects for events and rewards are a tad on the painful side.  Having said that, it really doesn’t hurt the experience too terribly.

Particle effects as seen in the above image do a great job of complimenting the havoc your little paws are wreaking on your owner’s personal belongings.  Speaking of personal belongings the placement of objects in the homes are very well done.  In spite of the basic textures it is very clear what every object is meant to be and they manage to populate each home in a very natural way.

Single Player: B

With all of that out of the way, let’s focus on the meat of the game.  Each level starts with an written inner dialogue from the cat.  By that I mean a very short insight into the cat’s mental state.  This is usually along the lines of something like this… “My litter box is full, those humans will pay!”.  While I can’t place if that exact line was in the game ( I almost think it was) you get the idea.

Depending on which of the two game modes you selected, you will have a very different experience.  Your two options are Objective Mode and Litter box Mode.  In objective mode you are given a certain number of objects that you must knock down before the time runs out.  Believe it or not this mode can be quite challenging due to the fact that if you fail to meet the goal within the time limit, you have to start over completely.  Once you reach the goal, you move on to the next house and wreak more havoc.  The litter box mode has no time limit and you only move on to the next house when you have nothing else to accomplish and jump into your box.  This will move you on to the next house destined for destruction.

Aside from that difference, the gameplay in both modes are identical.  You are a cat and you try to knock objects on the floor.  You can meow, jump, pick up objects and swipe with your paws.  You will obtain stat bonuses, chase mice, get a hold of catnip (which is amazing!) and even chase a laser pointer.  Discovering how to get to those hard to reach areas can be fun and extremely rewarding when you finally managed to knock down those books that have been taunting you.  The first time I realized I could open a cupboard or refrigerator  really brought things to a new level.

My only complaint is that you don’t get scolded by your owner at the end of the level.  One surprising thing about this game is it really manages to put you in the cat’s shoes (paws?).  I started to see the house from the cat’s perspective and really started enjoying knocking all the books on the floor, or pushing over the TV.  My frustration chasing the laser pointer kind of made double think the cruelty we put our animals through at times for our amusement.  One of the bonus levels I unlocked was a supermarket that was truly a holy grail type of experience.  The entire time through my first house I had the inner dialogue of “Take that you stupid humans!”.  I could start to see the shock and disappointment in my head when they first come through the door and witness the grand masterpiece that I turned their home into.  I started to notice my required number of objects get lower and lower, while the timer is beading down my neck pressuring me to find a large cluster of objects to give me that final boost.  The last few things needed….3….2….1.  Objective Complete…..here it comes….. just appeared in the next house.  To be honest it was kind of a let down.

In this same vein, I let my five year old play the game.  Which is actually a genus move on my part since he’s going through a cat phase anyway.  He absolutely loves the game and asked me to keep it forever.  The only negative thing he ever said about the game…. “It would be cool if the parents came home and told him he was a bad cat.”  Turns out I’m not alone in this feeling.

The saving grace is that this game appears to be constantly worked on and improved.  This feels far from the final vision and I totally expect plenty of new additions with age.  I honestly hope that the complaining owners make a cut one day, but until then they will have to remain in our imaginations.

Multiplayer: N/A

This game doesn’t feature any multiplayer and honestly I’m not sure that it has a need for it.  I can see a small amount of appeal when I think of the crazy cat lady’s house with a ton of felines knocking things about.  I suppose that could be an interesting addition as well.

Replay Value: C

This is probably where I have to hit the game the hardest.  This game is purely mindless entertainment, it never really evolves into anything else.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing and jumping in this perspective from time to time will be a great deal of fun.  Children will really get a kick out of playing this game and enjoy the challenge of jumping from platform to platform.  As an adult, I most certainly enjoyed my time with Catlateral Damage and will without a doubt load this up to wreak havoc on occasion.  If you are in the market for a deep engaging game with a ton of options, modes and freedom this probably isn’t the game for you.  If you are ok with just being a cat for a little while and knocking stuff over, you are in the right place.

I am still really impressed with the amount of effort and passion that has gone into this game.  If the concept even remotely appeals to you, I strongly urge you to give this a shot.  Catlateral Damage has without a doubt earned a place in my library.

————

OVERALL: B

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